Barbie Movie Review: Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling starrer's metaphorical take on feminism is all things liberating
When strange things start happening to Barbie's pink, prim and proper life in Barbie Land, she is compelled to travel to the Real World to find out what is going downhill. Joining her is Ken on the adventure who undergoes his own share of awakening in this trip.
- Greta Gerwig
- Margot Robbie,
- Ryan Gosling,
- America Ferrera,
- Kate McKinnon,
- Will Ferrel,
- Simu Liu,
- Michael Cera,
- Rhea Perlman,
- Helen Mirren
A scene in Greta Gerwig's Barbie shows America Ferrera's character breaking into a hard-hitting monologue depicting the various norms and conditions that women are subjected to and expected to mold into society. Not only the Real World but even the Barbie World is plagued by women cooped up in the ideal world of perfection and everything plastic, pink, and pretty. Under the garb of our favorite childhood memory Barbie and her boyfriend Ken, the movie is a subtle and underlying take on feminism, coming-of-age realism, and our understanding of beauty.
Enter the make-believe and utopian world of Barbie Land which consists of varied forms of Barbie and Ken. Barbie Land is interconnected with the Real World via a portal wherein the activities of the people in the latter affect the lives of the dolls they are playing with and emotionally latch on to. Barbie (Margot Robbie) is your very definition of a stereotypical Barbie. Be it her scintillating looks, fancy house, and belongings in the shades of pink, prim and proper clothes, and outright feminist activities. However, the trouble comes up when Barbie experiences unnatural activities like the thought of death, her heeled foot turning flat and a sense of monotony seeping in. The only solution is to unravel the mood and emotion of the girl playing with her in the Real World. Joining her in the adventure is Ken (Ryan Gosling) who goes on his own path of self-discovery with the idea of patriarchy. The chaos which ensues after this forms the main crux of the plot.
Greta Gerwig's direction aims to not only highlight the complexities and stereotypical norms which women have to mold but also is an empowering tale of women coming to terms with their flaws, incapabilities, and complexities but embracing them seamlessly. One of the men in the Real World is seen telling Ken that they've learned to 'hide' patriarchy subtly thus sending him in a trance on what the concept of patriarchy is curated of. Machismo, horses, and positions of power are what Ken abides by when it comes to coming to terms with patriarchy. While the journey of every Barbie, as well as the mother-daughter duo in the Real World, is unfettering and liberating, the Kens learn in a hard-hitting way how they are a lot more than being Barbie's love interest and someone who pines for her attention.
The writing by Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach is layered and intricate with some epic punches which retain the essence of the plot. Be it the epic bouncing back of all the Barbies to reclaim Barbie Land or the underlying patriarchy which grapples with the real world, the plot does not shift from its intention. From an unmissable dig at Margot Robbie herself as her Barbie suffers an existential crisis to Ryan Gosling declaring the foundation of Ken Land, the film never has a dull moment when highlighting its fundamental connotations. The realization of the dolls being more than pretty, plastic, and an object of patronizing and attention for their Ken is one of the highlights of Barbie for sure. Then there is the message of every Ken out there being 'Kenough' without the attention and validation of his Barbie. The only drawback was that we wish we could've seen more of Barbie's experiences in the Real World and her tale of empowerment being born in a more independent manner. It would have added a little more empathy for the character.
Coming to performances, Margot Robbie couldn't have been more seamless for this role. From the dainty and perfect stereotypical portrayal of the cult classic doll to the realization of her emotions, complexities, and flaws after venturing into the real world, the actress blends into every aspect of her character. However, it is Ryan Gosling who brings home one of the best dialogues and has the most endearing character development. His superficial idea of patriarchy, frustration with the lack of validation by Barbie, and unraveling his emotions by the end really stay with you for a long time. Not to forget, both he and Margot look like an absolute dream throughout the movie. The other power-packed performances include of that of America Ferrera, Kate McKinnon, Simu Liu, Michael Cera, and Will Ferrel. A huge shoutout to Helen Mirren and Rhea Perlman for their brief performances. The cameo of Dua Lipa and John Cena will surely give you some whistle-worthy moments.
The production design by Sarah Greenwood will take you on a nostalgic ride as we are introduced to the hot pink and delightful pitch-perfect world of Barbie Land. So is the costume design by Jacqueline Durran who makes us relieve the many charming and beauteous clothes that we'd enjoyed dolling up our Barbies in. The soundtracks like 'Dance The Night' by Dua Lipa, 'Barbie World' by Nicki Minaj and Ice Spice, 'Man I Am' by Sam Smith, and 'What Was I Made For' by Billie Eilish definitely stand out.
Barbie is a wholesome joyride that will definitely leave you with a myriad of emotions. Relive the nostalgia attached to our favorite doll which had shaped up so much of her childhood. The underlying layers and undertones of feminism are the cherry on the cake.